From Oliver to Alice—A Journey of Directing Inly Players Productions

By Martha Sawyer, Director

Martha Sawyer looks on during an Inly Players dress rehearsal.
Martha Sawyer looks on during an Inly Players dress rehearsal.

A remarkable journey, where nothing is as it seems, filled with fanciful characters and a curious adventure at every turn. While that could describe our heroine’s story, it also tells the tale of my wonderful association with The Inly Players. In the fall of 2008, I was asked to step in and direct The Inly Players third production, OLIVER! Since then, I have been fortunate to return and guide this unique and talented troupe through a wonderland of musical stories.

Each year, production begins with choosing the show. As simple as that may seem, it can prove a difficult and tricky negotiation. It is a delicate balancing act to find a show with the right appeal of story and music that will match our pool of actors and resources. Since I began directing for Inly, a production of ALICE in WONDERLAND has come under consideration almost every year. But our creative team was always a little wary of the available scripts and scores. This year, the timing seemed right to create our ALICE. And so we did.

A scene from this year's production of Alice in Wonderland.
A scene from this year’s production of Alice in Wonderland.

The process of creating and telling Alice’s story of self discovery has been a joy. As always with The Inly Players, the blended cast of students, parents, staff, friends and theater professionals forms a unique and inspiring dynamic. Like Alice, our cast and artistic team have been curious and fearless as they looked through the looking glass and jumped down the rabbit hole to find our answer to the Caterpillar’s query, “whoooo are youuuu?”

Our production is being presented in the year we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the original publication of this children’s classic. When directing a production based on an iconic story, I am always conscious of what expectations the audience may have about the characters and their journey. I am sure many of you have a clear recollection of your first reading of this magical story—or perhaps you best remember the characters from a film adaptation or animated version.

As I re-read the book and entered the topsy-turvy world of Wonderland, I found Lewis Carroll’s words and wit to be as fresh and as new as ever. What I found most of all was the joy of the unexpected. As I turned each page, and tumbled from adventure to adventure, I felt the story compelling me to keep searching and discovering a new point of view. It is my hope that we have captured that magic from the book and that you will follow Alice’s lead and join us as we take a fresh look at this timeless magical and beloved masterpiece.

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